Seven students selected for Sea Grant Research Trainee program at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

Seven students from universities across Georgia have been selected to participate in the year-long Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee program. The students will work with faculty and professional mentors to conduct marine research and gain new professional skills.

Research conducted by the trainees will address one or more of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s four focus areas: healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, resilient communities and economies, and environmental literacy and workforce development.

“By pairing students with academic and professional mentors, and immersing them in interdisciplinary research experiences, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is helping prepare a diverse workforce for jobs in the future,” says Mona Behl, associate director of Georgia Sea Grant.

The trainees will design research projects that build on their dissertations or theses while connecting with extension and education specialists at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant who will help share their work with coastal communities. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is a UGA Public Service unit.

Samantha Alvey

Samantha Alvey

Samantha Alvey is a master’s student in biology at Georgia Southern University. As part of her traineeship, she will be studying antibiotic resistance in coastal waters.

Bacteria are able to develop resistance to antibiotics and enter streams and rivers through wastewater discharge and runoff. These bacteria accumulate on river sediments where recreational activities, like fishing and boating, re-release the bacteria into the water where they can cause disease. Alvey will collect water and measure how the amount of antibiotic resistance bacteria changes when sediment is disturbed by human recreation. She will also examine the potential for the resistant bacteria to spread from rivers to the coast, which will be useful to inform water policy aimed at reducing ecological and public health risks.

“This program not only provides essential resources to support my research but also opportunities to communicate my findings to my peers and the public through conferences and public outreach events that I might not otherwise have access to during my graduate program,” Alvey said.


Courtney Balling

Courtney Balling

Courtney Balling, a Ph.D. student in the departments of Integrative Conservation and Geography at UGA, is researching the environmental drivers of septic system failure.

Coastal areas are especially at risk of septic system failure in the coming decades due to sea level rise and changes in rainfall patterns. Balling will look at how environmental conditions, like tidal fluctuation and precipitation, impact bacterial concentrations in groundwater near residential septic systems. This research will be shared with officials working in public health, wastewater, and planning to help create sustainable wastewater solutions for the future.

“I would love to be a part of an extension service. I truly enjoy research and community engagement, and extension would allow for both. This traineeship is allowing me to gather more of the skills I’ll need for that kind of work—everything from grant writing and research design to strategic communication and community partnership,” Balling said.


Jennifer Dorick

Jennifer Dorick

Jennifer Dorick is a Ph.D. student at UGA studying food science with a focus on food safety. Her project will focus on food safety hazards in aquaponics, a sustainable agricultural practice that integrates aquaculture and hydroponic farming.

Dorick will study a commercial aquaponics system, looking at what pathogens, like E.coli and salmonella enterica, are present and where they are most prevalent within the system. This research will provide more insight into foodborne pathogen risks in the aquaponics industry and will provide valuable information to other commercial aquaponics farms that could prevent the introduction of these pathogens in their systems.

“The traineeship will contribute to my research goals by funding a research field that is creating an innovative and sustainable method to produce fresh food sources to urban, rural, and food desert areas in Georgia,” Dorick said.


Monét Murphy

Monét Murphy

Monét Murphy is an undergraduate student pursuing a double major in marine science and environmental science at Savannah State University. Her project will involve studying benthic foraminifera in the Savannah River Estuary. Benthic foraminifera are tiny, single-celled organisms that can serve as bioindicators of environmental conditions in marine environments, including natural variability and human impacts. They are generally well preserved in the fossil record.

As part of her project, Murphy will study foraminifera distribution and abundance in samples collected before, during and after the deepening of the Savannah River harbor. This research will determine if the upstream extension of saline waters due to Savannah harbor deepening has impacted foraminifera distribution and if these changes have the potential to be impacted in the sediment record.

“The traineeship program will help me better communicate my results, the importance of benthic foraminifera, and the impacts of harbor deepening to stakeholders and how the study of the fossil record informs us of the range of past climatic, coastal and oceanographic conditions,” Murphy said.


Alexandra Muscalus

Alexandra Muscalus

Alexandra Muscalus is a Ph.D. student in the Ocean Science and Engineering program at Georgia Tech. Her research focuses on hydrodynamics and coastal impacts of the wake generated by container ships, which pose public safety hazards and have been linked to rapid shoreline erosion along shipping channels.

Muscalus will study sites in the Savannah River to measure the wave characteristics and energy of ship wake in the main shipping channel as well as nearby secondary channels. Her research will be beneficial in providing new information for coastal managers when it comes to mitigating impacts of low-frequency wakes on shorelines.

“The traineeship will allow me to conclude my thesis work in a way that transforms my previous findings into meaningful and actionable results for stakeholders. At the same time, it will provide a means for me to interact with stakeholder groups and help me decide in which specific direction I would like to take my career,” Muscalus said.


Sarah Roney

Sarah Roney

Sarah Roney is a Ph.D. student in the Ocean Science and Engineering program at Georgia Tech. Her traineeship will involve researching how different types of organic compounds identified from predator waste products can improve how oysters defend themselves against predation.

Working with researchers at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Shellfish Research Lab, Roney will introduce two organic compounds in a hatchery system that have been shown to induce defensive responses in oysters. The goal is to produce a stronger, well-defended oyster that can increase the success of restored reefs and living shorelines as well as the productivity of farmed oysters, enhancing oyster restoration practices as well as oyster mariculture efforts.

“With the trainee program, I can work with not only my academic and scientific advisor, Marc Weissburg, but also the director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Shellfish Research Lab, Tom Bliss, learning about the ins-and-outs of the shellfish industry in Georgia and the ways scientific research can be beneficial and applicable to the trade,” Roney said.


Megan Tomamichel

Megan Tomamichel

Megan Tomamichel is a Ph.D. student at UGA’s Odum School of Ecology researching black gill disease in shrimp. Her project involves developing a stock assessment model of shrimp populations that incorporates black gill transmission and harvesting strategies under ongoing oceanic warming.

The model will account for the impacts of black gill on shrimp, and it can be used to inform management strategies for shrimp harvest under changing environmental conditions.

“I was interested in applying to the Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee program to support my current research addressing a disease of concern in Georgia fisheries. This program aligns with my goals to use science as a tool to help support the people and ecosystems of the Georgia Coast,” Tomamichel said.

Future teachers and elementary school students learn about wetland ecology

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is working with students at the College of Coastal Georgia to monitor a freshwater wetland adjacent to a local elementary school and develop educational lesson plans on wetland ecology for elementary and middle school students.

Katy Smith assists two students of Oglethorpe Elementary School in monitoring the wetlands on their school's property.

Smith (left) explains how the rain gauge monitors rainfall at the wetland.

“Freshwater wetlands in coastal regions provide important habitat and resources for wildlife as well as ecosystem services that benefit humans, like water filtration and buffering against flooding and storm surge,” said Katy Smith, water quality program coordinator at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “This project will allow us to study this habitat, learn from it and encourage stewardship of these areas for the benefit of wildlife and humans alike.”

As part of the project, which is funded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division, Smith teamed up with College of Coastal Georgia faculty, James Deemy, lecturer of environmental science, and Amy Sneed, assistant professor, to provide experiential training for undergraduates at the college.

Deemy and Smith are working together to advise students who are pursuing a degree in science to carry out research activities at the site.

Kayla Russo, a rising senior at the College of Coastal Georgia, learned about the wetland project during her hydrology class and decided to assist with weekly monitoring.

“I was taking different water measurements, like conductivity, turbidity, and also running soil moisture transects,” said Russo, who is majoring in environmental science. “I was enjoying the stuff I was doing in-class, which was limited because we didn’t have all of the instruments, so I was able to go more in-depth through the [wetland] program.”

The baseline monitoring data on the wetland is being incorporated into lesson plans developed by senior-level teacher candidates at College of Coastal Georgia, with guidance from Sneed who coordinates middle grade and secondary education.

During the first year of the project, six lesson plans were developed that cover hydrology and soils, water chemistry, plant classification, environmental impact, and wildlife life cycles and habitat.

The lessons are being piloted by students participating in Oglethorpe Point Elementary School’s Marsh Lab program, which is led by Karen Garrett, who teaches at the school. As part of the program, Garrett works with all grade levels to take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it outdoors through interactive experiences.

Katy Smith assists students in monitoring the wetlands by their elementary school.

Garrett shows students how to measure water temperature and document the results as part of an interactive education activity.

“I take their science curriculum and make it come to life,” Garrett said. “Since they can’t do hands-on science experiments in the classroom due to time constraints, they come to me every other week and we do experiments.”

With the new lesson plans, the students are learning about topics like water clarity, amphibians, soils and trees using real data collected by the college students. They are also able to conduct experiments in the wetland using some of the research equipment, like a rain gauge, that was set up by the college students.

According to Garrett, engaging students in the natural world encourages them to use scientific inquiry, investigation and exploration to complement their science curriculum. Having the students work through lessons that are directly connected to this important habitat at their school will help foster a sense of stewardship of this natural resource.

“They’re able to see the wetland and how it can be affected by their actions, so hopefully they can take that and create ideas for future actions or create their own opinions on environmental issues,” says Garrett.

The project has also supported summer interns to carry out some of the objectives. During the summer of 2020, Samantha Lance, a rising junior at Washington University in St. Louis, created a series of teaching materials such as middle school lesson plans, educational activities about freshwater wetlands and climate change, an Instagram story and a coloring book featuring wetland plants and animals.

During the summer of 2021, Hunter Molock, a rising senior at Savannah College of Art and Design, will illustrate and design a series of educational signs to enhance the Discovery Trail at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School. The final signs will highlight wildlife, habitats and more, and will be installed during the fall of 2021.

“The overarching goal of this project is to foster appreciation and conservation of coastal freshwater wetlands,” Smith said. “We hope the resources created during the project will provide students with continuing opportunities to learn about, study and protect this important habitat.”

Community science supports environmental research

You don’t have to be a professional scientist with an advanced degree to make a meaningful contribution to scientific research. That is one conclusion of a recent paper by Dodie Sanders, an educator at the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Jay Brandes. The article was published in the winter issue of Current: The Journal of Marine Education.

The paper focuses on the researchers’ use of “community scientists” in a project to study the extent of microplastic pollution on the Georgia coast. The community scientists are volunteers, without extensive training or graduate degrees in the field.

The initiative began in 2018 when Brandes and Sanders were faced with the daunting task of collecting monthly water samples at 12 different sites along the Georgia coast, but without a large team to conduct the field work. The previous summer, a UGA undergraduate student, Jacob Mabrey, demonstrated that using community scientists to fill the gap might be the answer. Mabrey spent the summer traveling up and down the coast and collected dozens of samples.
Sanders and Brandes wanted to know whether community science could play a significant role in scientific research. They started with a model developed by the University of Florida microplastics project, Florida Microplastic Awareness Project.

“We took that model and adapted it to what we thought we needed here on the Georgia coast,” Sanders said.

Marine Educator Dodie Sanders

Sanders and Brandes initially approached the Satilla, Altamaha and Ogeechee Riverkeeper groups, who conduct monthly water tests in their areas already. The riverkeeper groups gladly joined the project. Sanders and Brandes then expanded to include a small group of volunteers who were working with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on the Skidaway Island campus.

“It’s worked out great because we have a group of volunteers that are very interested in learning more about this global issue,” Sanders said. “But more importantly, they’re interested in doing something about it. And so, this afforded an opportunity for volunteers to come in and not only help us do the science, but also become advocates for the project and advocates for what we were trying to accomplish.”

Roger Cayer is one community scientist volunteer. “I feel like studies like this are important to raise the awareness level of the general population about plastic pollution,” he said. “Who would have thought that synthetic clothing would become such a major problem?”

Brandes is very careful to avoid using the term “amateur” to describe the team of volunteers. “I think, sometimes, there can be a negative connotation to that word, but the people who have been working on this project have been wonderful and very dedicated.”

He said that everyone involved understands the critical importance of proper research technique, strict protocols and training in order to obtain believable data.

Volunteers collect water samples for microplastics.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the field work for the past 12 months. As Brandes said, it is difficult to socially distance on a 24 foot Carolina skiff.

Sanders and Brandes would like to see their work benefit other researchers and community scientists. The overarching concept of the article is to provide a model that other researchers can put to work elsewhere.

“Take community science, and its advantages, and its bonuses and how people can be an integral, an important part of scientific research, because they are force multipliers,” Sanders said. “They allow us to do so much more on such a larger scale than we would be able to do on a day-to-day basis.”

Sanders said the community scientists opened her eyes to how the public is interested in environmental issues, especially issues that are in their own backyard. And they want to be advocates.

“So that’s been a rewarding aspect of this project, to not only get to know the volunteers or the community scientists on a personal level, but to realize their passion for the work is just as great as our passion,” she said.

That passion is echoed by Cayer who said he has enjoyed “the camaraderie, the laughs, the sharing of knowledge and ideas. And getting to know each member on a deeper level by sharing a common passion and goals.”

The entire paper can be found here.

Published by Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant addresses flooding issues at Camden County Extension office

UGA’s Cooperative Extension office in Camden County has experienced its fair share of soaked floors and wet shoes. When it rained, water streamed into the building.

UGA’s Cooperative Extension office in Camden County is home to the new bioretention cell.

Fortunately, these days the floors remain dry thanks to the installation of a new stormwater management practice that alleviates flooding and serves as an educational tool for visitors.

In 2019, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant teamed up with the Camden County Extension office and the Camden County Department of Public Works to find a solution to the flooding. The fix was a bioretention cell that captures and treats runoff by mimicking the natural water cycle.

“A bioretention cell is a landscape depression that is designed to hold the rain for about 24 to 48 hours to slowly allow the water to seep back into the ground,” said Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, who led the project.

As stormwater flows over surfaces like the parking lot outside of the extension office, it picks up pollutants and carries those to streams and larger waterways, degrading water quality, Brown said. The bioretention cell limits the amount of runoff, keeping nearby bodies of water clean.

A bioretention cell is a stormwater management practice that helps mitigate flooding risks by layering organic materials such as sand, top soil, gravel, mulch and plants.

Brown first learned about the flooding issues from Jessica Warren, Camden County Extension agriculture and natural resources agent, who is based at the facility Woodbine, Georgia.

“Our office had some flooding issues when we had heavy rainstorms, or severe weather events, since the parking lot is slightly graded towards our building,” said Warren. “We would have water come in the doors and saturate areas in the office, so you would see it standing several inches up on the foundation of the building.”

UGA PSO Scholar Jake Forcier talks with Brown about his plans for the bioretention cell. Photo taken prior to February 2020.

With a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the assistance of a UGA student studying biochemical engineering, Brown designed and oversaw the installation of the bioretention cell.

The project was a valuable experiential learning opportunity for Jake Forcier, a UGA Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar interning with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Brown “truly set me up for success and allowed me to put my best foot forward in my first engineering project outside of school,” Forcier said. “Going out there and seeing all my calculations being used to properly dig the bioretention cell was a really cool experience.”

Camden County’s Public Works Road Crew helps prepare the plot of land for the installation of the bioretention cell. Photo taken prior to February 2020.

Camden County’s Public Works Road Crew provided the tools and construction assistance for the installation. They worked alongside Warren and Brown to excavate the area and add sand and topsoil to form the base layer of the bioretention cell. Mulch, rocks and gravel form the second layer, and a variety of native plants including swamp sunflower, blue ageratum and blue-eyed grass were planted on top.

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the progress of the project, the bioretention cell was fully installed and functioning by the end of 2020. The native plants have been established in the area, and two rain barrels donated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division have been installed. The final step of the project is to create and display educational signage at the site in 2021.

Brown and Warren plant various native plants in the cell.

“We will hopefully have an open house and some educational events that will help give people examples and a demonstration of what they could do with their landscape issues, [such as] how to better integrate native plants or how to manage stormwater issues in their landscape,” said Warren.

The project, which was recently awarded the Four for the Future award by Georgia Trend and UGA Public Service and Outreach, has also opened the door for the Camden County Extension office to serve as an example for other communities in coastal Georgia experiencing similar issues.

Warren (pictured on the left) and Brown (pictured on the right) partnered together to create the bioretention cell that will serve as an educational tool for community members.

Interactive, virtual curriculum helps fourth graders better understand weather

A new comprehensive, virtual-learning science curriculum for students in fourth grade focuses on the water cycle, weather, climate and natural processes that shape the Earth’s coasts and communities.

Water Shapes Our Planet and Our Lives provides a unique, hands-on experience that allows students to explore local weather, discover and create tools used by scientists to collect weather data, and evaluate long-term trends recorded by climate scientists.

“Our goal was to create a “one-stop shop” for educators to find up-to-date, virtual materials to teach water, weather and climate standards while introducing climate change science to their students,” says Katy Smith, water quality program coordinator at the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Smith served as the principal investigator on the project, which was funded by the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA).

“While our curriculum is built around Science Georgia Standards of Excellence, it will benefit any fourth-grader learning about these universal topics,” Smith said.

Each lesson is designed as an online teaching resource for both educators and curious learners. Educators are able to teach the lessons to their students through Pear Deck, an interactive presentation tool for educators, while curious learners can launch the lessons at home. There are short tutorials and other resources on the curriculum web page to help users get started.

All lessons are paired with videos about the different topics and include hands-on activity tutorials for students to follow along with educators. For virtual students who don’t have access to classroom resources, Smith has developed 60 activity kits that are available for educators to request for their students on a first-come, first-serve basis. Educators can reserve kits by filling out this form.

A webinar about the curriculum is scheduled for Tuesday, April 27, from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Participants will learn how to implement the lesson plans and the project team will be available to answer any questions. Click here to reserve your spot.

The first 60 educators to utilize this curriculum and complete the evaluation will receive a one-year subscription to National Geographic Kids print magazine (nine issues).

The curriculum is available here https://secoora.org/education-outreach/water-shapes-our-planet-and-our-lives-curriculum/

Katy Smith, klaustin@uga.edu, 912-264-7268

Story originally published here. 

UGA helps coastal communities address a potential public health crisis: Failing septic tanks that contaminate groundwater

Ashley Cooper-Heath and her husband had lived in a house on the banks of the St. Mary’s River in Camden County for about a decade when they noticed that their septic tank was leaking, spilling sewage into the river.

“I really didn’t want to have to spend the money replacing it, but I knew at some point we were going to have to,” Cooper-Heath said.

Fortunately for her, Camden County was on top of the problem. The county had assessed its septic systems and identified 21 that were failing, including Cooper-Heath’s. Using a grant from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the county replaced the failing septic systems with mounded systems that are better suited to the local environmental conditions because of the high groundwater table.

“I understand why they don’t dig into the ground because we’re right next to the water and if anything should leak it goes into the (river),” Cooper-Heath says. “Everybody is starting to see the importance now.”


A mounded septic system replaced Ashley Cooper Heath’s failing septic system.

In an effort to assist other property owners along the coast, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is mapping every septic system in an 11-county region and adding that information to a database that helps officials recognize and address septic system failures before a serious public health crisis can occur. It also will help communities better plan when they need to install new septic tanks to accommodate growth.

“Georgia is one of the first states in the country to develop a comprehensive inventory of existing septic tanks in the entire coastal region,” says Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and lead on the septic system mapping project. “This should allow us to better manage these systems in the future and avoid problems that other rapidly growing coastal areas have experienced.”

Camden County was one of the first of the coastal counties to address the problem of failing septic tanks. Most of the failing systems were installed in areas with poor soil that were prone to flooding, said Terry Ferrell, environmental health manager for the Camden County Coastal Health District. They were also installed before 2000, when the state passed a rule requiring septic tanks be separated from the groundwater table by at least one- to two-feet.

Since replacing the failing or failed systems, water quality samples taken near those sites have shown a decrease in bacteria levels. Ferrell said 20-30 septic systems in the watershed will be replaced in the next phase of the project.

In rural Georgia, where centralized wastewater treatment facilities are few and far between, most homes rely on underground septic systems to store and treat wastewater. Each system has its own drain field where effluent from the tank is slowly discharged into the soil, which treats the wastewater by removing harmful bacteria and nutrients before reaching the groundwater.

The problem is that as sea levels rise, so too does the groundwater table, leaving less soil to filter out contaminants before it reaches the groundwater. Increased flooding also leaves the ground more saturated, rendering the drain field temporarily ineffective and leading to septic system failure. These hazards are threatening as many as 60,000 septic systems in coastal Georgia.

septic performance

failing septic

When septic failures occur, bacteria and viruses from human waste can enter the groundwater and coastal waterways, making people sick. Coming into contact with this polluted water may result in symptoms that range from vomiting to more severe illnesses like typhoid or dysentery. Poor water quality can also shut down public beaches and restrict shellfish harvesting in certain areas, impacting Georgia’s tourism and commercial fishing industries. Excess pollutants from failing systems that make their way to tidal creeks and estuaries can cause algal blooms, which deplete oxygen levels in the water and kill fish.

“As sea level rise leads to a higher groundwater table, and encroaches on the septic drain field, even the newer systems will begin failing,” says Scott Pippin, a faculty member with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Both the Vinson Institute and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are UGA Public Service and Outreach units. “It is important that communities have plans in place to deal with these issues down the road.”

That’s where the database becomes essential. With funding from the Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resource Division and the Environmental Protection Agency, the inventory has been expanded to show which septic systems might be at risk based on other factors in the database, such as the likelihood of flooding, sea level rise or pollution. Anyone can access the data to make informed decisions about installing septic systems in certain locations. It also makes it easier for conservation groups and researchers to study or better monitor high risk areas.

So far, the septic inventory includes a total of 57,865 septic tanks in eight of the 11 counties. The team is still entering data from Charlton, Brantley and Wayne counties.

Pippin, in partnership with the UGA Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems, has funding from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to use the septic inventory to assess present and future vulnerabilities of septic systems in Bryan County, west of Savannah and home to the Fort Stewart Army Base.

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, Bryan County was the second fastest-growing county in Georgia. As population growth and coastal development increases, improving management and planning for future on-site septic systems in these vulnerable, rural areas becomes increasingly important.

“We’re using inventory data as well as groundwater and sea level rise data,” Pippin says, “to develop a method for evaluating septic system vulnerability and potential site suitability for septic tanks that’s based on present coastal conditions as well as future conditions.”

You can access the database at https://www.welstrom.com/coastal/

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348
Contact: Mark Risse, mrisse@uga.edu, 706-542-5956

UGA’s new Green Living Series promotes conservation through individual action

Residents of Georgia’s coastal communities can learn how to save money and better preserve natural resources during “Green Living,” a new series of programs offered by the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in Brunswick this winter.

“Our goal is to help coastal residents realize how everyday actions, from picking up after pets to using reusable bags, not only saves money but also helps conserve and protect our vital coastal resources,” says Kayla Clark, public programs coordinator for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We know how much people value living in the Golden Isles. Our hope is to share some fun, innovative ideas for how they can help protect this area as well as the rest of the coast.”

From December through March, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will offer sustainability-focused events, including a film screening, tips on how to save money by using less energy, the environmental impacts of animal waste, recycling habits, and a lesson in building a rain barrel.

Class topics and dates are provided below. Registration is required for each class. Participants can register online here. More information is available on the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant event calendar.

Film Screening: The Human Element, Dec. 5
Enjoy a free screening of the visually stunning documentary, “The Human Element,” in which environmental photographer James Balog captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change. Following the film, a panel of local experts will discuss efforts to address climate resiliency in coastal Georgia. Panelists include Susan Inman, the Altamaha Coastkeeper; Randy Tate, Ft. Stewart/Altamaha Partnership coordinator for the Longleaf Alliance; and Rachel Guy, research coordinator at Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Home Energy Economics: Saving Money by Going Green, Jan. 23
Learn about utilities that save energy and money. Talk with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s marine economist, Adam Stemle, about the costs and benefits of different types of energy, and make a plan for reducing energy costs at your home or office.

What’s the Scoop? Environmental Impacts of Animal Waste, Feb. 6
Animal waste from wildlife and domestic pets can introduce harmful bacteria into waterways. Understanding where this waste is coming from can help us better prevent and manage it in the future. Join Asli Aslan, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Georgia Southern University, on a field trip to St. Simons Coast Guard Beach where you will survey the beach for possible sources of pollution. Afterwards, participants will engage in hands-on activities in the Brunswick Station laboratory to learn about the water testing that takes place behind the scenes to help protect human health.

Beyond the Bin: Rethinking Recycling Habits, Feb. 20
Learn about some of the negative impacts of single-use plastics and other types of marine debris on coastal ecosystems before exploring new, creative ways to reduce, recycle and reuse plastic material. Lea King-Badyna, executive director of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, will discuss local cleanup and recycling initiatives taking place in the Golden Isles and Jennifer Zamudio, owner of Dot and Army Sustainable Everyday Goods, will share her story about building a sustainable business out of reusable materials.

Planning for Rainy Days: Building your own Rain Barrel, March 6
Rain barrels are an easy and affordable way to manage and conserve rainwater that can be used for your garden or to maintain your lawn. The Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is partnering with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to teach residents how to build a rain barrel they will take home following the program.


UGA Brunswick Station Open House scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 26

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is hosting its second open house at the Brunswick Station on Sept. 26 from 4-7 p.m.

Visitors of all ages are invited to tour the facility, engage with coastal experts, and learn about Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s research, education and extension efforts on the coast.

“The whole idea is to connect people in the community to the resources that we have here at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant,” said Bryan Fluech, associate marine extension director. “From helping residents prepare for hurricanes to installing a rain garden, we have in-house experts ready and willing to serve people on the coast.”

Staff will have stations set up throughout the facility that feature live marine animals and reptiles, hands-on marine debris activities and information about Georgia’s shellfish industry.

A new virtual reality demonstration station will allow visitors to experience what it’s like when an 8-foot storm surge impacts a home on the coast. The program, which was developed in collaboration with the Games and Virtual Environments Lab in the UGA Grady College and Mass Communication, takes users through a hurricane event with storm surge and then allows them to elevate their house and obtain flood insurance to protect their family and property against future flood risks.

The R/V Georgia Bulldog, a 72-foot shrimp trawler that has been converted into a multipurpose research vessel, will be open to visitors. The Bulldog has been providing logistical support for research projects that involve fishery development, bottom mapping and sea turtle conservation since the 1980s.

Visitors are also invited to explore the station’s half-acre native plant demonstration garden with more than 115 types of native plants.

Staff at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Brunswick Station have been serving coastal Georgia communities for over 40 years, conducting important water quality research, ensuring safe seafood, preparing communities for coastal hazards and educating Georgians about stormwater management.

Additional details about the event can be found here: https://gacoast.uga.edu/event/brunswick-station-open-house/

Learn more about Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant at https://gacoast.uga.edu/.

Contact: Emily Kenworthy, 912-598-2340 ext. 107, ekenworthy@uga.edu

New Adopt-A-Wetland coordinator plans to enhance monitoring efforts on the coast

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant welcomed Luke Roberson as the new Adopt-A-Wetland program coordinator for coastal Georgia. Roberson is recruiting, training and coordinating citizen scientists who are interested in protecting the aquatic resources surrounding Georgia’s coastal communities.

“My job involves talking with people about stewardship of their local waters, the science of water quality, and traveling along our beautiful coast with a terrific team,” says Roberson. “What’s not to like?”

Roberson will work to increase public awareness of water quality issues by training citizen science groups in different communities on how to monitor water quality and conduct biological sampling to determine wetland habitat health. All the data that is collected will be compiled by Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and added to the Environmental Protection Division’s water quality database maintained at the Atlanta Adopt-A-Stream office. Each group is provided with an annual report summarizing the data collected at their respective sites.

Roberson made his way to Georgia from Maryland, where he worked on the local rivers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and served as a biologist for eight years with the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s Monitoring and Non-Tidal Assessment Division. Prior to his role at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Roberson worked as the monitoring and education coordinator for the nearby Ogeechee Riverkeeper.

Roberson earned a bachelor’s degree in biology as well as graphic design at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He then pursued his master’s degree in environmental science and policy from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

UGA engineer teams up with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to clean up the coast

Plastic bottles, cigarette lighters and pieces of Styrofoam aren’t exactly the first thing you want to see when you head to the beach. Not only is marine debris an eyesore, it’s becoming increasingly prevalent and showing up all over the world.

Jenna Jambeck, a professor of engineering at the University of Georgia, can attest to that, having been the first to quantify how much garbage enters the world’s oceans. Her study, published in “Science” in 2015, estimates that eight million metric tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans every year.

“That’s equal to five grocery-size bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world going into the ocean every single year,” Jambeck says.

As part of her 2016-17 Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellowship, Jambeck tackled the issue of marine debris in Georgia by collaborating with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to recruit students to collect data along the coast using the Marine Debris Tracker app.

Jambeck co-developed the Marine Debris Tracker (MDT) app to engage citizens in marine debris and litter data collection and prevention as part of a project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program in 2010. The app allows users to submit information about the type, amount and location of litter and debris items during routine cleanups anywhere in the world.

“Dr. Jambeck’s highly interdisciplinary work represents the type of impactful research and innovative technology that can help us identify and solve some of the most critical challenges facing society,” said Donald Leo, dean of the UGA College of Engineering.

To date, over one million items of debris have been removed and logged by individuals and groups using the MDT.

Katy Smith, the water quality program coordinator for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, is trained students at Glynn Middle School on how to use the app and coordinated monthly cleanups along U.S. Highway 17 in Brunswick, Ga.

“The MDT provides a fun and effective tool to engage young students,” Smith says. “Being able to see the positive impact they are having through maps, graphs and photos generated by the app instills a sense of accomplishment that they are proud to share with others in their community.”

The students removed 1,521 items of debris from approximately four acres of the marsh environment near Glynn Middle School.

Removing trash that’s already in the environment is important, but Jambeck stresses the need for a more proactive approach of educating individuals about the negative impacts in hopes of changing behaviors and stopping debris from entering the environment in the first place.

“If people are noticing litter items and tracking it with the Marine Debris Tracker, then maybe they will think twice the next time they are offered a single use plastic item or will remember to bring their bags or use a water bottle. It is these small changes, when taken collectively, that really do make a difference,” Jambeck says.

Jambeck is working with Smith to create educational materials that include information about ingestion and entanglement, and utilizing the MDT. The materials include modules that teach students how to analyze data sets and consider the source of the debris.

When finalized, these lessons will be available for teachers wishing to introduce the issue of marine debris to their students, and will tie in relevant principles of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics to lay a foundation for future innovation and leadership.

Writer: Emily Woodward, ewoodward@uga.edu, 912-598-2348
Contact: Jenna Jambeck, jjambeck@uga.edu, 706-542-6454

Stay connected to the coast. Subscribe to our newsletter today!